Monday, November 9, 2009

The Analysis of Bullshit.

So when I see an article like this, I can only think, bullshit: Bullshit methodology and bullshit purpose.
A Writing Revolution
Analysis / by Denis G. Pelli & Charles Bigelow / October 20, 2009
"Rates of authorship are increasing by historic orders of magnitude.

To quantify our changing reading and writing habits, we plotted the number of published authors per year, since 1400, for books and more recent social media (blogs, Facebook, and Twitter). This is the first published graph of the history of authorship.

Authors, once a select minority, will soon be a majority. "
Related graph:

Really. Do you want a fucking medal?

Let me start with the authors' first premise, which is complete bullshit, "Nearly everyone reads."

"Nearly" might be accurate, but it's not nearly good enough for me. There are times when "nearly" isn't fucking good enough. "Nearly everyone made it out alive." "Nearly everyone wasn't on fire." "Nearly everyone got on a lifeboat."

According to this UNESCO report,
"An estimated 776 million adults – or 16% of the world’s adult population – lack basic literacy skills. About two-thirds are women. Most countries have made little progress in recent years. If current trends continue, there will be over 700 million adults lacking literacy skills in 2015.

"...forty-five countries have adult literacy rates below the developing country average of 79%, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa, and South and West Asia. Nearly all of them are off track to meet the adult literacy target by 2015. Nineteen of these countries have literacy rates of less than 55%."
But the author of this publishing "analysis" states:
"Extrapolation of the Twitter-author curve (the dashed line) predicts that every person will publish in 2013."
You mean when a large part of the world is still illiterate?

So either the illiterate will publish what they themselves won't be able to read, or the authors simply forgot about them and left them out of the equation.

I thought the "digital haves" were supposed to care more. But I guess not. Literacy is not a choice. No one says, "I don't think reading is a useful way to spend my time." No. They say, "Damn, I wish I knew what the fuck this label on this bottle says because I just ate some of these pills and now I don't feel so good."

These guys are also redefining the word "author." How would you define an author? The simple definition from says, "one that originates or creates."

Each of us is the creator. Each of us dreams. Each expresses these thoughts, wants and desires. Don't tell me that the Internet suddenly validates my creativity. Why? Because more people have the power to ignore it? Do you want to quantify failure? Do you want to say that the Twittererer with 10 posts and no followers doesn't exist?
"In our analysis, we considered an author’s text 'published' if 100 or more people read it."
What do you mean, "read it." Read, as in past tense, like how many people clicked? Or scanned like refreshing the Twitter public time line? Or Read, as in the activity of reading, attempting to understanding of the meaning of the words from the point of view of the author?

I feel it's an insult to every pre-Internet author who scribbled a poem or a message or a drawing; anyone who took a photograph; anyone who hummed a tune or banged two pot lids together, that they are somehow less important because we can't quantify their failures. Don't tell me these people didn't have an audience.

If you want to define published authors by the number of clicks or by the possible audience, then go ahead and disqualify all of my suggestions. No child ever expected her antics to be broadcast publicly for others to enjoy. No writer of a diary ever expected his words to appear in a published journal.

So go back to officially published authors. And compare them to your bloggers and twittererers. Which group is more successful? You have authors in the past producing works that were at least read by an editor or a proofreader or his mother. And you have authors today who are, based on the math, probably read by no one, or such a small fraction of the total, that they aren't really published at all. No one has read their works; unless you count the Internet browser's spell-checker.
"International concern for the minority who can’t read may soon extend to those who can’t publish. "
So we can declare the plague of illiteracy defeated. Woo-hoo! Tell me, asshole, how does Twitter put food on the table? How does it help me to vote for the best candidate? How does it improve my life? The fact that you even attempt to compare the value of literacy to twittererering makes me sick.

Maybe these countries should just give everyone a netbook and a Twitter account; that should solve everything. Many countries aren't doing enough to educate their people. When people read, they are exposed to new ideas. And new ideas aren't always good for some leaders. So if you can publish, why would you need to read?

At least it's clear that the authors have read typical tweets and blogs and comments posted to the Internet. Literacy no longer matters so long as we can click 'Submit'. Even barking dogs have a greater understanding of their own messages than most Internet users.
"Our society is changing from consumers to creators."
When each of us is a creator, the authors of this report will feel, what? That the analysis was dead on?

But what happens when we are each the creator of words or images that no other person can understand? As a fucking librarian, who fucking promotes literacy and education and works to help others better themselves by learning more about what is going on in the world around them, when I hear some fucking asshole talk about how something like Twitter is more fucking important than literacy, it fucking pisses me off.

Then we will truly achieve total Bullshit.